The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday filed a reference against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and seven others, including the ex-premier’s wife Bushra Bibi and property tycoon Malik Riaz, in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust case.

The case alleges that Imran and his wife obtained billions of rupees and land worth hundreds of kanals from Bahria Town Ltd for legalising Rs50 billion that was identified and returned to the country by the UK during the previous PTI government.

Imran was initially arrested in the case earlier this year from the premises of the Islamabad High Court but was later released after the Supreme Court declared the arrest unlawful.

On Nov 14, the PTI chief, who is already imprisoned in Adiala Jail in the cipher case, was again arrested by the accountability watchdog in the case. He was then handed over to the watchdog on physical remand, before being sent on judicial remand.

The others named in the reference include Farhat Shahzadi, a close friend of Imran’s spouse, former special assistants to the prime minister (SAPM) Mirza Shahzad Akbar and Zulfi Bukhari, legal expert for the PTI government’s Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) Ziaul Mustafa Nasim and Ahmed Riaz.

The accountability watchdog submitted the reference against Imran and others to an accountability court in Islamabad earlier today. It said the “accused […] were given multiple opportunities to justify and provide information, but they deliberately, with malafide intention, refused to provide the information on one or the other pretext.

“Furthermore, it is established through their responses that they have nothing in their defence to rebut the above-mentioned allegations. Thus, they all have committed an offence” under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).

It added that the investigation proceedings and findings so far “established that accused persons in connivance with each other have committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practices” as defined under the NAO.

The reference said Imran played a “pivotal role” in the illicit transfer of funds which were meant for the state which ultimately benefited Riaz.

Akbar, the former SAPM and Asset Recovery Unit chief, played a “crucial role” in the “illegal design of the funds” which were meant for the state, the reference said.

Malik, the reference said, had “actively aided, abetted and assisted and acted in conspiracy” with the other respondents for the diversion of funds earmarked for the state.

Bushra Bibi and Shahzadi also played a “significant” and “crucial” role in the “illegal activities”, the latter also a “front woman” for Imran and his wife, it said.

The reference said that it was “just and proper” to proceed against the eight suspects as there was “sufficient incriminating evidence” available to justify the reference.

It pleaded that the eight suspects be tried and punished in accordance with the law by the court or any other to which the reference was entrusted.

The case

The case relates to the alleged illegal acquisition of land for and construction of Al-Qadir University involving unlawful benefit given in the recovery of prime proceeds (140 million pounds) through the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) in a money laundering case against real estate tycoon Riaz and his family.

Imran is also accused of misleading the cabinet by concealing the facts related to the settlement agreement. Money was received under the settlement agreement (140m pounds) and was supposed to be deposited in the national exchequer. But it was adjusted in the recovery of Rs450bn liabilities of Bahria Town Karachi (BTK).

Earlier this year, former interior minister Rana Sanaullah had accused Imran and his wife of accepting Rs50bn and hundreds of kanals of land for protecting the real estate firm in a money laundering case.

He had alleged that Bahria Town “illegally transferred” Rs50bn to a Pakistani national in the UK. The transfer was identified by the UK’s NCA, which subsequently informed the then PTI government of the crime, Sanaullah had said.

The PML-N leader had claimed that Imran, the prime minister at the time, had tasked Akbar, ex-PM’s aide on accountability, to resolve the matter. Akbar “settled” the entire case, while the Rs50bn — which was state property and belonged to the national treasury — was adjusted against Bahria Town’s liability, the interior minister had alleged.

According to Sanaullah, Bahria Town had donated hundreds of acres of land to Al-Qadir Trust, with the agreement bearing signatures of the real estate developer’s donors and Imran’s wife.

He said the non-profit organisation had only two trustees: Imran and his wife. The minister added that another 240 kanals were transferred to “Farah Shehzadi”.

It is pertinent to mention that the Supreme Court on Nov 23 had ordered that an amount of Rs35bn, which was remitted to the apex court’s bank accounts maintained in the name of the SC registrar, in the Bahria Town settlement, be transferred to the federal government.

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